As something that impacts your health and general energy levels so much, air quality in the home is something to take seriously. One of the most commonly found contaminants in any home’s air is mold. Mold thrives in warm, damp, humid conditions and reproduces by means of microscopic spores that travel through the air. During the winter, certain environments can cater to mold growth, such as attics that leak from snow buildup or uninsulated pipes that condense moisture. This fall, make the necessary repairs and preparations to prevent mold from plaguing your home before winter strikes.
1. Manage Indoor Humidity
Make controlling your indoor humidity a priority this winter. Creating the right balance of moisture in your home helps your HVAC systems work more efficiently. It can also ward off respiratory disorders caused by poor air quality. To reduce the risk of mold growth, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping your indoor humidity level no higher than 50%. Take advantage of dehumidifiers and install exhaust fans in your laundry room, bathrooms, and kitchen.
2. Seal Up Cracks and Crevices
Moisture can creep in through tiny cracks and crevices around your home, encouraging the growth of mold in hard-to-spot places. For optimal mold prevention, take the time to walk around your home and seal up any problem areas with caulk. Air leaks most often develop around windows and door frames, but can also be present in more inconspicuous areas like around bathroom tubs, toilets, and sinks. Also, inspect ventilation fans for cracks or gaps around the perimeter.
3. Change Your Air Filter
Replacing your air filter on a regular basis can reduce energy bills, extend furnace life, and improve indoor air quality. Air filters contain porous membranes that allow air to pass through while trapping dirt, dust, pollen, and mold spores. When you neglect to change the air filters in your home, these pollutants buildup—which can negatively impact your home’s air quality. Replace the air filter in the average home every 90 days. If you have a pet, make it every 60 days to account for pet dander.
4. Prepare Your Outdoor Property
Many homeowners consider mold prevention for inside their homes but forget about preparing the outside. Start by turning off water to any outdoor faucets or hoses. Drain out any water from hoses before storing them away for winter. Clear the gutters and downspouts of debris, allowing water drainage to be transported away from your home. Finally, close the fireplace shafts and dampers to prevent moisture and debris from coming down the chimney.
5. Waterproof Hidden Areas
Just because you can’t see moisture does not mean it doesn’t exist. Basements and crawl spaces are notorious for leaks and moisture issues. Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t find out about these problems until it’s too late and mold has already started to spread. If you suspect a moisture issue, have these areas of your home inspected and waterproofed.
6. Insulate Water Pipes
During the chilly winter months, water pipes in your home are vulnerable to freezing. All it takes is one frigid night for your pipes to freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars in repairs. Condensation on pipes, in addition to water damage caused by burst pipes, can create the perfect environment for mold growth. Keep your home at a warm temperature to deter freezing. Also, take the time to properly insulate your water pipes.
7. Repair Roofing Problems
Storms, ice dams, and accumulations of heavy snow can all contribute to roof damage. Over time, harsh weather conditions can cause shingles to loosen or break and exterior surfaces to wear down. As moisture settles, it can bypass roofing materials and leak into your home. Inspect your roof periodically for signs of stress or damage. Uneven roof lines, lifted shingles, and bowing could indicate structural issues or water damage.
8. Reverse Ceiling Fan Direction
One simple way to prevent mold this winter is by setting your ceiling fans in reverse. In the summer, set your fans to turn counterclockwise, and in the winter, have them turn clockwise. By setting your ceiling fans to turn clockwise in the winter, you’re pulling cold air up and pushing warm air down. Not only will this simple step save you money on your energy bills, it will also prevent condensation from building up on cold windows and walls, which can be potential sources of mold growth.
9. Immediately Dry Wet Materials
Mold can start to grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours. To deter mold growth indoors, avoid leaving wet materials lingering around your home. Dry spills on floors and avoid leaving wet clothing or other materials lying around the house. Transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer as soon as the wash cycle is complete. If moisture seeps into your basement after a heavy rainfall, dry the area promptly and have the issue remedied by an experienced waterproofing company.
10. Eliminate Dead Plants
If you’ve been neglecting your plants over the summer, odds are some may have dead stems or leaves. In nature, molds naturally break down dead plants as a way of recycling the organic materials. While you may have plants indoors to keep the air clean, it can have the opposite effect once mold starts to grow in the soil or on the leaves. Hinder mold growth in your plants by experimenting with adding Taheebo tea to your plant water.
11. Evaluate Your HVAC System
One of the most important things you can do to keep mold to a minimum is to have your HVAC system evaluated on a regular basis. Before the cold weather hits, have a professional service your furnace to ensure that it’s in good running order. A well-functioning HVAC system will not only lower mold growth in your home, but will also save energy and prolong the life of your system. Have your HVAC system serviced at least once a year, preferably in the fall.
The winter months bring rain, snow, and ice to your home. Humidity and moisture is a dangerous combination that can significantly increase mold growth in and around the home. Fortunately, you can control mold. Contact your local HVAC professionals at R.Brooks to learn how we can help with mold prevention.